Answers demanded in agent’s slaying

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The chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus on Thursday asked President Bush and Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to “provide a full accounting” of what led to the release from jail last month of a Mexican national suspected of running over and killing a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

“We understand there is an ongoing investigation; however, the information we are seeking should be publicly available as we are looking into the process of investigation and communication with the Mexican authorities,” Rep. Brian P. Bilbray, California Republican, said in letters to Mr. Bush and Mr. Mukasey.

“It’s been three weeks now since Navarro was released from jail,” Mr. Bilbray said in the letters, which were co-signed by 36 House members. “The Aguilar family deserves answers, and the administration should provide them in the most transparent way.”

Jesus Navarro Montes, 22, was arrested Jan. 22 by Mexican state and federal authorities in the town of El Yaqui in the northern state of Sonora after a three-day international manhunt. He was charged with running over and killing Border Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar Jr., 32, who was attempting to stop drug smuggling suspects as they fled back across the border.

Mr. Aguilar was killed as he tried to lay spike strips on a highway near the Imperial Sand Dunes in California, 20 miles west of Yuma, Ariz.

“Agent Aguilar was killed in a heinous act of violence on January 19 in the Yuma Sector, while attempting to stop two vehicles that illegally entered the country and were absconding into Mexico,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said June 25 in denouncing Navarro’s release. “We are working with a determined Mexican government, and our Department of Justice, to seek swift justice for the Aguilar murder.”

Navarro was released by Mexicali Federal Judge Laura Serrano Alderete after he had applied for and was granted bail. Mexican law enforcement authorities said federal officials in Mexico City were not aware of the release until after it had occurred, and the Mexican attorney general’s office has since issued an order that Navarro be located and detained.

Officials at the Mexican Embassy in Washington have said the U.S. government has not issued an arrest warrant, provided evidence or contacted Mexican authorities regarding extradition. They have maintained that the mistake was made on the U.S. side of the border.

Mr. Bilbray said that according to Mexican authorities, Navarro was freed after being cleared of an unrelated migrant-smuggling charge and because the U.S. government “apparently did not seek extradition or issue an arrest warrant.”

He said the caucus is demanding “an explanation and an accounting” from Mr. Bush and Mr. Mukasey of what, if any, communication took place between U.S. and Mexican authorities concerning the release. He said he wants to know whether the Justice Department sought Navarro’s extradition and, if so, when, and if not, why not.

FBI agents from the San Diego field office had led the investigation into Mr. Aguilar’s death, focusing on reports that Navarro was the driver of a Hummer that struck and killed the agent, a six-year Border Patrol veteran.

The Mexican Embassy in Washington, which announced the arrest, said a preliminary investigation into the killing had found that Navarro left the city of Mexicali and was headed for the U.S. “driving a Hummer vehicle, presumably carrying drugs.”

The embassy said that as Border Patrol agents tried to stop the vehicle, “Agent Aguilar was run down, and Mr. Navarro fled the scene back to Mexican territory.” It said Navarro would be prosecuted on pending charges in Mexico, but they were awaiting an extradition request from the United States.

Mexico does not extradite suspects who face the death penalty, and first-degree murder of a federal officer is a capital offense.

Records show that Navarro had been arrested and imprisoned earlier for transporting 10 illegal immigrants to the U.S., Mexican authorities said. A warrant for his arrest also was issued in Mexicali on human-trafficking counts, they said.

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